Monday, December 18, 2006

Improving Your Emotional Health After Baby Arrives

Postpartum depression has been in the news often recently because of Andrea Yates and other cases in which women killed their children because of their emotional state in the postpartum months. Most women, however, experience only mild versions of postpartum depression. Yates and others like her actually suffer from postpartum psychosis, which is a much more severe illness.

First know that most mothers who get postpartum depression will experience it at around three to four months postpartum. When your baby is first born, you will find that your emotional state will vary wildly because of your hormones. Your estrogen level drops a few days after the baby is born, and many women report feeling overly emotional during this time.

After a few weeks, however, you will get into the routine of having a baby, and it is at that point when the depression begins to sink in for many new moms. If you have never dealt with depression before, as many women who face the postpartum version of this illness have not, then you likely will be confused by your feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy. Other moms, who have been depressed before, will know where they are headed but still may find it difficult to change how they feel.

If you think that you may be getting depressed, you should act now to keep the illness from progressing. Please note that if you feel suicidal or if you think that you are just getting worse, it is best to call a doctor now for professional advice.

What many women will experience, however, is a very mild version of the disorder, which often is called the baby blues. You may not be clinically depressed, but you still feel crummy. You can help yourself get better if that is how you feel. Begin by writing about your feelings. A lot of people, especially those who are not natural writers, may feel silly about writing down their feelings, but it may help. Think about questions if it helps you. How do you feel? Do you feel worse during certain times of the day? Are there things that you want to change about your life? Be specific in your writings.

Once you have begun to identify what you want to change, then you will be able to begin to make small changes. Perhaps you feel overwhelmed with all of the work a new baby requires. (Even if you thought you were prepared, chances are that the baby is more work than you had imagined!) You may want to make yourself feel better by giving yourself a manicure or pedicure. You can buy an inexpensive kit or make one up for yourself. Look online for inexpensive home spa treatments and give yourself half an hour of pampering after baby goes to bed a couple of times a month.

You also may find that you do not feel great about your body right now. Many women make it through pregnancy without worrying about their shape because they are focused on the baby. Then when the baby arrives, Mom finds that she does not have the pregnancy reason anymore, and she gets frustrated. You can make small changes that will begin to impact how you feel about your health. For example, you can make a promise to yourself to drink at least three glasses of water a day. You also can get at least 15 minutes in for a walk or other low-key exercise activity everyday. These small steps will help you to feel better about yourself in the long run.

Do not neglect your old friends and hobbies once your baby arrives. Many women begin to feel trapped because they are not happy being with the baby all the time (but often are ashamed to admit it). It is okay to feel that way. You should work to give yourself time to indulge in your hobbies, even if you have to alter what you do. Perhaps your sculpting plans need to come down a bit. Work to make your new baby and the rest of your life go hand in hand. Remember that you are still important, and your needs matter. Give yourself the love you deserve.

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